Archie Powell & the Exports get real with ‘Great Ideas’

Maybe you’ve already heard the excellent new album by Archie Powell & the Exports, as it came out back at the beginning of May, and they’ve been getting astounding press and done some touring. However, if you haven’t, allow me to fill you in.

Great Ideas in Action is the sophomore full-length from Chicago’s coolest party animals. These boys caught my attention early on for issuing some of the smartest pop-rock concoctions I’d ever had the pleasure of hearing. Lead singer/guitarist Archie Powell was blessed with a voice perfect for crooning out snarky pop lyrics — his nasal tone delivers the words with an audible sneer and when he belts, he belts with reckless abandon. With his band of Exports — bassist Adam, keyboardist Ryan and drummer RJ — Archie taps into a magic formula that is not being matched much in today’s indie rock.

In the spirit of AP&E, I’m having some beers to write this belated review. Now, for all the years I’ve been raving about these dudes, they still lack the volume of fans they deserve. Their fanbase is largely set in the Midwest right now, where they spend most of their time, but it’s not hard to see that they’re destined for greatness. They’re a fun bunch of guys who make a fun bunch of music, and they really bring the party with Great Ideas in Action. Upbeat and melodic, this album does the seemingly impossible in showing up the band’s debut full-length, Skip Work, with ruckus raisers such as “Shooting Spree” and “Crazy Pills.”

While it feels like all fun and games, this is actually serious stuff. Archie sings about his hardships in life, which is honestly where a lot of artistic inspiration comes from. “My diploma doesn’t help a damn and, all in all, I guess I’m better off to throw my head against the wall,” he sings in “Job Fair.” And it’s hard to argue against “it’s about who you know” when it comes to finding good work. In the title track, he laments, “It’s getting darker and the bills are getting steep; it’s not conducive to much joy and jubilee.” However, if it’s any consolation, I would assure Archie of the many people in the world who actually aspire to be starving artists. It has its own rewards, and in some way, he is living the dream. Just one that’s fueled by cheap beer and $2 burritos.

If there’s any justice in the world, Archie and the boys won’t be scraping by for long — if Skip Work didn’t prove that, Great Ideas in Action certainly does. With “You Might Be Cruel (Or I Might Be Dumb),” AP&E have one of the best songs of the year on their hands. The familiar feel of unrequited love is embodied in Archie’s lyrics, with a sing-along lilt that brings us all together in pleasant misery.

At times, Archie’s words are a little too clever; you can’t decipher everything. But overall, what makes AP&E’s music so accessible is the relatability of the lyrics. What makes it marvelous is the pop genius that goes into every note. The band really takes care to make sure everything comes together just so, like something perfectly packaged off a factory line. It’s that kind of precision that shows their dedication to what they do, and they may possibly be one of the hardest working indie bands out there right now. Incidentally, they’re also one of the hardest partying. Hey, maybe they’re onto something … sounds like a great idea in action, to me.


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